I’ve spoken about this in a previous blog post, but it has come up again and again since then, so here goes…..
If you are a fighter, you must train your legs.
In Tai Chi circles there is much talk of borrowing force from the ground to generate power. If we westernise this they are basically going along with the physics explanation that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. If I press into the ground with X amount of force, it pushes back with X amount of force. And if the ground pushes me, I move forward with intent!
When I want to throw a knockout punch, I press my rear foot into the ground, this then gives me a solid surface to push off (or if you like, it pushes me)with my foot & calf muscles, allowing me to extend my hip, turn my waist, drive the shoulder forward and finally propel my arm to extend at speed into the other geezers mush and he goes to sleep.
With out the action of the leg extending, I’d loose a massive amount of power.
So hopefully we can see that it is necessary to replace some of the time spent on push ups and crunches with some time on power.
While the pushups etc are useful, fighters do need to have massive reserves of strength endurance, it’s not the be all and end all. Plus, we can replace the push ups with some higher value drills that will still reap massive amounts of stamina.
But first, why do fighters not train legs? It’s because of the bodybuilding approach taken by almost every gym goer. This leads to stiff, swollen muscles and little functional carryover to the ring. Kickboxers are terrified that a set of squats will lead to them being restricted to low kicks only (not necessarily a bad thing for non ring sport MA’ers)
This simply won’t happen with the correct application of training techniques.
My choice of strength drills for the fighter are simple:
1. Deadlifts – absolutely, without a doubt, essential for any man or woman planning to get into a ring. For training the hip extensor muscles (hamstrings & buttocks) the dead will not be beaten, and when you can extend your hip powerfully, you will hit powerfully.
2. Front Squats – I personally prefer these to back squats, due to the fact that we have no squat rack, which takes up to much space anyway. Why not just clean the bar up the shoulders and squat.
3. Bulgarian split squats – Like a lunge but with the rear foot elevated on a bench or stability ball.
4. Single leg Romanian Deadlifts – The benefits of the dead but with extra balance and stability issues.
5. Pistol Squats – The No Equipment, No excuses favourite.
Incorporate them into a gym program using multiple sets of low reps (1-5reps max). I then recommend finishing the workout with some high rep work that will get the blood pumping and work the conditioning.
My fighters conditioning drills of choice are again simple:
1. Thrusters – With a bar/pair of dumbbells/kettlebells in the rack position on the shoulders, do a deep squat, then explode up extending both the legs and arms.
2. Swings – Kettlebells are best, but a dumbbell works. This mimics the deadlift explosively training the hip extensors to fire powerfully even while fatigued.
3. 1 Kettlebell Clean & Jerk – Done for high reps this is a rear test of character. The bell is cleaned using the hip extensors then fired up to lockout mainly with the calves and quads, the shoulder takes up the slack at the end, just like a punch.
4. Burpees – The No Equipment, No excuses method – Drop into a push up then jump into the air. To really go nuts, jump to a pull up bar, or clean a pair of dumbbells/kettlebells. Brutal.
5. Heavy bag – simply do a few rounds on the bag.
For best (or evilest) effect do these with the aid of a countdown timer. Training with timed sets is a brutally humbling experience but it will get you fit in a hurry.
Cool off and do some light stretching/mobility work. The combination of the heavy deads/squats followed by the high rep lower body/full body work will train the muscles to not only generate a huge amount of power, but to keep doing it over and over. Every punch you throw will start to come from the ground, and the other guy will notice (when he wakes up that is!)
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